bathroom remodel/aluminum wiring

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reverb2000
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bathroom remodel/aluminum wiring

Postby reverb2000 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 8:12 am

I have read alot of negative things about aluminum wiring, but just how bad is it? We gutted the bath and the whole room is wired with it...it looks like 10 guage. I know about pigtailing and using copper, but really, how bad can it be? I see no signs of heat problems or anything else unusual. Anyone have any opinions on this stuff..and please, I know all about expansion/bad connections/resistance...just curious if this is just another scare tactic by electric companies.

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Postby egads » Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:43 am

Pig-tailing short pieces of copper to the fixture, using copper to aluminum connectors is all you need worry about. The main problems with aluminum wire is expansion with heat. When connected with regular wire-nuts or wrapping the wire around receptacle connection the heating and cooling loosens the connections causing arcing. When houses where first built, some plugs were even 'back-wired" i.e. a stripped end was pushed into a hole and held with friction. These were the worst. One thing to be very careful about still is the wires tendency to break right where it was stripped. It's really important to be very careful when stripping the ends of the wires to not nick the wire itself. Also take care when folding the pig-tailed wires into the box.

It would also be prudent to check connections all over the house. Any plug or fixture that has been replaced should be checked. Also, the set screws attaching the wire to breakers can loosen over time. Tightening them down annually is a good idea.

Aluminum wire is sized one size higher than copper for the same amps. Therefore, lighting circuits that would have #14 wire rated at 15 amps would be #12 in aluminum. The # 10 is 20 amp corresponding to #12 copper wire. Do not use #12 wire for pig-tailing 15 amp circuits. Keep the same amp rating (even though different in the two materials) though out each circuit.

The copper to aluminum wire nuts are expensive. But go ahead and buy a large package. Two or four in a blister pack from Home Depot is the most expensive way to buy them. Bit the bullet and do connections all over the house. Especially anywhere an appliance my produce heat.

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reverb2000
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Postby reverb2000 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 1:31 pm

I bought a box of the connectors (10 for 35$), but really dont want to mess with the low voltage wiring and switches. I think I may just jump into it and rewire the bathroom.

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Postby egads » Sun Jul 20, 2008 1:42 pm

What low voltage wiring and switches? Does your house have touchplate or something?

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reverb2000
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Postby reverb2000 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 4:30 pm

not sure what its called, but its rocker switches with relays. I assumed it was called low voltage wiring.

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SDR
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Postby SDR » Sun Jul 20, 2008 5:22 pm

egads, nice post. You really seem to know this stuff. By ". . .especially anywhere an appliance may produce heat" I assume you mean anything that draws enough amps (? -- I'm really bad at electricity) rather than an appliance that gets warm ?

SDR

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Postby egads » Sun Jul 20, 2008 6:06 pm

Yes drawing higher amps. Here's the formula: watts ÷ volts = amps.
So, a 1500 watt heater with the voltage at 120 would draw 12.5 amps.
So if the voltage is lower, say 110, the amps actually go up. The case of 110 volts, to 13.636 amps. To take this farther, say with low voltage landscape lighting, 200 watts on a landscape cable at 12 volts is 16 amps. That is why landscape cables can be so large. Although Malibu sold sets with cable as small as #16, a real system would have at least #12. You can get landscape cable up to #8 for those long runs in a mansion backyard.

In reverb2000's case, the low voltage wiring that controls the lights carries no load at all. It is just used to switch relays somewhere in a panel. All the loads go from there out to the lights. That is why redoing a house built with low voltage relay lighting is a nightmare to refit to to a normal set up. The advantage with those systems is that lights can be switched from many different places by just running small wiring back to the relay panel.

Oh, what appliances do draw a lot of amps? Usually those that produce heat. A space heater, a curling iron, toaster, clothes iron, electric frying pan. Those not only draw a lot of amps, but because they do so with resistance, they tend to heat up their cords and the house wiring as well. That's why a heater should never be connected to an extension cord.
Every electric device should have at least the watts if not he amp rating on a label somewhere. A refrigerator or an A/C unit dims the lights because it consumes high amps when the compressor motor starts. Consumption with electronics tends to be fairly low, except for the now dead plasma panel. You could warm a room with one of those.

Oh, and because you are a woodworker, you should check the rating of the extension cords you use. Orange does not mean anything. Most of those cords are #16 wire. Ok for a small drill or sander, but not for a table saw, a hammer drill or even a worm drive Skilsaw. #14 & #12 extension cords are available although expensive. And another tip: when working at someone's house, try to plug into the kitchen or laundry. Those circuits, even in older houses, were usually 20 amp. In a really old house, look for the plug next to where the built in ironing board was. In many newer tract houses, the plugs in the bedrooms, living & family and many times the exterior plugs are 15 amp.

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Postby SDR » Sun Jul 20, 2008 6:24 pm

Thank you, and thank you !

SDR

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Postby Tony » Mon Jul 21, 2008 7:29 am

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